We’ve been talking a good deal on the blog about ritual and the legitimacy of Satanism as a religion. That’s all well and good, those practices are an important part of The Satanic Temple’s brand of Satanism. In fact I’ll be attending another such benefit event in a few weeks, and other chapters are moving forward with local collection campaigns. But this week we turn our attention back to political action and the fight over separation of church and state.
Of course without our individual and collaborative achievements there wouldn’t be things to celebrate with events. There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes that we should start hearing more about pretty soon. So by way of an overview, here are some TST related stories to watch.
Satanic Holiday Displays
The great thing about holiday displays is that they’re usually approved without too much fuss. This drives the point home that TST is not, as many claim, ‘just trying to get religious displays removed’ but actually pushing for inclusion and (gasp) tolerance.
Even when these displays are erected there are still often problems from those who don’t feel Satanists deserve the same inclusion as everyone else. The Satanic Temple-San Jose recently installed a holiday tree (along with hundreds of others) in the city’s annual Christmas in the Park event.
The immediate reaction was mixed, as usual. However, after reports surfaced that the tree’s Baphomet head topper was missing there was a surprisingly favorable outpouring of support from the San Jose community, and the Satanic community nationally. The topper was a Chris Andre’s designed mask. For those unfamiliar with his work those aren’t particularly cheap. But by Tuesday the community had pulled together the funds to buy a replacement.
In other holiday display news Florida resident Preston Smith’s pentagram display that drew staggering amounts of ire last year in Boca Raton will, as it turns out, not be going up again this year. It wasn’t that long ago that Smith had every intention of reapplying to have the display included, and there’s no word on why he missed the application deadline. It’s interesting to note that of the 5 available display slots one of them is now occupied by a member of Boca Raton’s city council. This lead local news to speculate that perhaps positions were being filled as a means of keeping the display out, but the councilman told the news there’s no truth to that, besides it would be extraordinarily difficult to prove.
TST-AZ Moves Closer to Possible Action in Invocation Campaign
The Satanic Temple’s Arizona chapter was basically founded around Michelle Shortt and Stu De Haan’s attempts to give Satanic invocations in Phoenix and Scottsdale, sparking a national and international debate over the constitutional imperatives of prayers at public meetings. When Scottsdale denied their invocation request after initially accepting it there were immediate questions as to whether their response passed legal muster.
There’s been a lot of behind the scenes activity since then. Working with the collaborative news site Muckrock, TST-AZ has been scouring through Scottsdale city council emails obtained by a freedom of information act request to find information that may be useful if/when any legal actions are taken. For example, in one such email a member of Scottsdale’s city council claimed it was “absurd” that TST’s religious rights are protected by the first amendment. In another, a different councilperson said that allowing TST to give an invocation was “taking equality too far”.
When Scottsdale rejected the invocation TST was told that “”The city is not going to deviate from its long standing practice of having the invocation given only by representatives from institutions that have a substantial connection to the Scottsdale community.” No one is sure what constitutes a “substantial connection”, TST was never asked to demonstrate whether or not such a connection exists, nor was there any such guideline stipulated in the city’s invocation application. As of right now it is indeterminate if/when there may be more movement on this story, but TST-AZ’s spokesperson Stu De Haan will be part of a church/state separation panel discussion this Friday on the live-streaming podcast Progressive Voices of Arizona. I would be surprised if the issue didn’t at least come up.
Arkansas Monument Campaign Still on Hold
When the Arkansas State Capital installed a Ten Commandments monument while at the same time instituting a rule change to block TST’s efforts to install a Baphomet statue it appeared a lawsuit was imminent. However, when the Ten Commandments monument was unceremoniously driven into by a mentally-ill Christian TST opted to wait for Arkansas to erect a replacement statue before pursuing the matter further. The main concern is that if the commandments statue was not replaced then it could provide issues of standing for any legal action.
Currently, the Ten Commandments statue is allegedly completed but not yet installed. Arkansas State Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission subcommittee will be holding a hearing on December 7th regarding proposed changes to the base of the original commandments monument. I’m told this is common since changes to the structure require oversight, but in my personal opinion it feels like they’re stalling. In any event, Lucien Greaves has emphatically stated that if/when the Ten Commandments monument is replaced a legal challenge will be imminent.
Reproductive Rights Case in Missouri Scheduled for State Supreme Court
Last but certainly not least in summing up current National initiatives, the Missouri State Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in TST’s challenge to state’s informed consent laws and 72 hour waiting period on January 23rd, 2018.
An interesting footnote to this case since TST won their appeal last month is that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a separate complaint from California in which anti-choice Crisis Pregnancy Centers are arguing that the state cannot compel them to give abortion information to patients. It’s possible that if such a challenge were to succeed it would be equally true that the State of Missouri could not compel Planned Parenthood to give out any materials they find objectionable either. In any event, the long fought Missouri case continues to move forward.